Market Report: Investors find fresh appetite for Ocado

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The Independent Online

It's had its detractors but yesterday Ocado had its investors topping up their baskets with shares in the online grocer as it beat 400p for the first time. Traders gobbled up the stock because of positive noises from a few analysts and investors who travelled up to Dordon in Warwickshire on Monday to see its new warehouse.

The group floated at 180p in July 2010 but reached a low of 53p in December 2011. The shares have been on an upward trajectory since it announced a partnership with supermarket Morrisons to launch online shopping earlier this year.

Analysts were smitten yesterday with the shiny, new "customer fulfilment centre" that it has spent £200m on. Barclays said it looked "impressive" while house broker Numis said it was a demonstration of Ocado's "huge achievement in constructing" the site and "the confidence of management in the opportunities for the business". The site will handle the Morrisons' operation.

The upbeat reviews helped it swallow up 16.3p to 403.3p and it was close to the top of the mid-tier index. Ocado also reiterated its plans for international expansion but gave no further detail.

Across the wider markets, dealers were awaiting last night's statement from the US Federal Reserve and a news conference with chairman Ben Bernanke, which came after the markets closed in London. Dealers already factored in a reduction of asset purchases by $10bn (£6.3bn). The FTSE 100 index lost 11.35 points at 6,558.82.

Ahead of Apple's iPhone 5 release, smartphone microchips specialist Arm Holdings took the top spot on the blue-chip index, 30.5p ahead at 984p.

Engineer Smiths Group reported a strong set of results and revealed shareholders are in line for a £118m special dividend payout.

The group that started life as a watchmaker ticked up 36p to 1,412p.

But the wooden spoon went to Aberdeen Asset Management after a price-target downgrade from Morgan Stanley ahead of results next week.

The market thinks its trading update could show troubled fund performance and it was 13.2p weaker at 367.3p.

Barclays' massive £6bn rights issue went live on the stock market yesterday. Barclays' shares went red on the screens during morning trade as they dropped from the previous night's closing price of 299p to 281p. But the screens corrected by lunchtime and showed it had added 0.99p to 277.2p by the close. Shareholders are being asked to buy one new share at 185p for every four old shares they hold in order for Barclays to satisfy the regulator's demand for extra capital on its balance sheet.

The nil-paid rights (which give existing shareholders the ability to sell their entitlement to the new shares) started trading at 95p and closed at 92p.

Both the ex-rights and nil-paid pushed trading well above Barclays' normal trading volumes.

Over on the mid-cap index, analysts at Citi decided to cut National Express to neutral and upgrade Go-Ahead Group to buy because National Express could be hit by "rail competition in Spain" that could be a "drag on profits" while Go-Ahead has a "good UK rail positioning" and low "execution risk". The downgrade put the brakes on National Express as it declined 9p to 265.2p while Go-Ahead travelled up 29p to 1,630p.

Ferrexpo has bought 14.4 per cent of Ferrous Resources and analysts at Investec said the deal will improve "geographical diversification out of Ukraine". Ferrexpo declined 0.1p to 183.6p.

Healthcare and patents specialist BTG, run by chief executive Louise Makin, got European approval for its multiple sclerosis treatment Lemtrada. It was 7.3p up at 384.3p.

Property group Town Centre Securities reported a full-year pre-tax profit of £7.3m, the same as last year, with turnover of £22m. It built up 11.5p to 216p.

On AIM, potash group Sirius Minerals reported its first ore reserve update. It said its York Potash project ore reserve has 250 million tonnes and it rose 0.62p to 10p.

Analysts at Liberum Capital played down problems at water-cooler maker Waterlogic. Liberum rated it a hold and said the company will "remedy malfunctioning thermostats on selected water coolers in the US". The shares trickled up 0.75p to 128.5p.

Central Rand Gold shone 15.5p brighter at 22.9p after reporting an upbeat operational update.